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How Quickly Things Can Change

How Quickly Things Can Change
By: Jeremy Garden

The Boston Red Sox are sinking and sinking fast. This current road trip is the most important of the season. After sweeping Baltimore the Sox had Tampa Bay for two games and 1st place New York for four. In Tampa the Sox lost a tough 13 inning game and Brad Penny gave up gopher ball after gopher ball in the other. It was an opportunity to keep the Rays down instead it put them back in the race. But, hey it's okay they are 8-0 against the Yankees. Think again. Today they are 6.5 games back in the AL East after being swept in a 4 game set against the Yankees.

The question isn't what's wrong with the hometown team. It's where to begin. There is a laundry list of problems:

1. The John Smoltz experiment was a disaster. After allowing 8 runs in just 3.1 on Thursday against the Yankees he was designated for assignment. The only worse starters with at least 8 starts are Chien-Ming Wang and Adam Eaton. Wang is out for the year and Eaton is no longer pitching for a big league club. In 8 starts he was 2-5 in 40 innings pitched, allowed 59 hits and 37 runs. He is without a doubt a future Hall of Fame pitcher. However, he is clearly done and cost the team several games and obviously could not wait any longer to hope he would turn it around.

2. The lack of depth at starting pitching. At the beginning of the year everyone looked at the number of bodies and said they are 7 or 8 deep. Fast forward to today they are as top heavy as Pamela Anderson. Josh Beckett has been as good as he was in 2007. John Lester has really turned himself into one of the best pitchers in the American League. The problem is after that it is a giant question mark. Tim Wakefield being hurt has really hurt this team. He is an innings eater and had an amazing first half of the season. Meanwhile, Brad Penny might want to see a doctor for whiplash. As result, the team had to hold on to Clay Buchholz who has been off and on because he is a young player. And gulp, bringing back veteran journeyman Paul Bryd.

3. David Ortiz’s link to performance enhancing drugs. The news was disappointing but not shocking. However, it has been a huge distraction. Ortiz decided to wait it out a little before having his press conference yesterday. He claimed that he was careless and only used vitamins and over the counter supplements. He never bought or used steroids. Whether it's the truth or not does not matter. It has clearly affected his play. Since July 31st he is 4-32 with 1 homerun and 3 runs batted in. If the Red Sox are going to make the playoffs Ortiz must perform like he did in June.

4. Injuries are getting to the point where they might want to have an ambulance on sight. As mentioned earlier Wakefield is out which has left a giant hole in the rotation. It's no surprise but J.D. Drew plays when he feels like it. Jason Bay has been hampered by a hamstring injury and is day to day. Rocco Baldeli was put on the disabled list with a foot injury. Jed Lowrie hurt his wrist again forcing the team to play Nick Green and waiver wire pick up Chris Woodward at shortstop. Most people use injuries as an excuse but clearly things are getting out of hand and really have handcuffed the team.

5. The offense continues to struggle. The pickup of Victor Martinez has helped a little but has not shown a dramatic difference in the results. It really is almost like they are swinging at golf balls instead of baseballs the past two games. The Sox have scored 0 runs in the last 24 innings. And to top it off only have 8 hits. There is no way their offense is this bad, but it is obvious it needs an overhaul. It should have been obvious going into the season too many "ifs". If Ortiz can return to the old David Ortiz. Nope. If Varitek can hit .240. Nope. If Drew can stay healthy and be the number 5 hitter like he was paid to do. Nope. If Jed Lowrie can take hold of the shortstop position. Nope. If Mike Lowell can stay healthy. He has held up decently but clearly his best days are behind him. If Jacoby Ellsberry can bounce back from a sophomore slump. That has been a yes. Basically, only one yes out of all those "ifs". Theo did a great job of acquiring Martinez but he really needs to make some major moves to make this offense elite again. The problem with that is it's too late for this season. This is the lineup they will have this year.

There is still a lot of baseball to be played. It seems like the sky is falling in Beantown. Nothing is going right and it is against the cream of the AL East. It was a chance for the Sox to make a serious push at the playoffs. Instead, they have stumbled and fallen on hard times. Things do not look good and presently looks like déjà vu from 2006. Where they fell off the face of the Earth after the Yankees swept them in a 5 game series. From this point on we will see what this team is made of. No excuses the team they have now is not going anywhere. If they are going to make the playoffs it will be earned the hard way after this tough road trip.

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